Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
Not long ago, an earnest and thoughtful person looked worriedly into my face and asked me if I had accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Was I, in short, saved?
I was pretty sure I knew exactly what she meant. She meant, had I knelt down, prayed a sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into my heart and life. She meant, had my life been changed from that moment on and into forever.
I don’t think salvation usually works like that. Those kind of sudden transformations sound more like magic tricks than the slow work of salvation as I know it. Still, I said, “Yes!” which as I had hoped, ended the conversation at once.
Later, I wished I would have taken up the cross and used it as a bridge between her understanding of salvation and mine. I could have asked her, “What do you mean by that?” And then, I could have really listened to her, instead of ending the conversation the easiest and quickest way I knew how. Maybe, if I had listened, she would listened to me too.
And if so, I could have told her that the only path to salvation I know is to get up every, single, ever-loving day and ask for help. Help to follow Christ’s light when there are so many wonderful and terrible distractions glittering along the way. Help to carry the cross along whatever little stretch of road lies before me. Help to have the strength to do it all over again tomorrow.
Holy Jesus, We want to become your followers and so you invite us today, as you did yesterday and as you will tomorrow, to pick up the cross and follow you. Give us the strength and the courage we need. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is an ordained UCC minister and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.